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Cybersecurity is a problem too big for small businesses to ignore

New research shows the average website is hacked 44 times per day, according to website security company, SiteLock.

There’s no denying the valuable role technology plays in people’s lives, but the access it provides comes at a risk to all businesses - small or large. Cyber criminals don’t discriminate. In fact, Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report found that 58 percent of data breach victims are small businesses.

“Cyber Crime and Fraud attacks are targeting the majority of small and mid-sized businesses every day, so it almost doesn’t matter how many times they’re happening,” says Terry Roberts, founder and CEO at WhiteHawk Inc., a company focused on preventing cybercrime and fraud for SMBs. “Online crime and fraud happens very easily if you have no prevention in place. But if you’ve put the basic practices in place, they (the online criminals) will knock on your door and then move onto the next.”

For a small business, the effects of a cyberattack can be devastating and costly. The National Small Business Association estimates that each cyberattack costs on average $7,200. The average loss for firms who business banking accounts were hacked was a whopping $32,000.

“You would not leave your laptop sitting on its own at the coffee shop or leave your office unlocked overnight,” adds Roberts. “So why would you do that in the virtual world, which is where you’re probably handling all your business transactions and often how you are generating your revenue?” 

According to a Harvard Business Review survey on cyber risk, most companies don’t understand the danger that cyber attacks and breaches pose and 86 percent of smaller organizations feel unprepared for a cyber attack or breach.

Here are five common signs a breach is underway:

  • Google sends you a Safe Browsing Alert. Google scans almost every website on a daily basis, and they will mark any sites that contain malware. This isn’t a failsafe but does help identify malicious sites.
  • Your hosting company disables your site. This is a definite telltale sign because the hosting company should be doing malware and anti-virus scans against your site to protect you, themselves and hardware.
  • Any email sent from your domain goes instantly to the spam folder. This suggests your domain has been blacklisted. Your site can be blacklisted by your Internet Service Provider or by a number of independent sites, some of which you can view here.
  • Your website is slow and/or shows error messages, but your hosting company says there are no problems. The hacker may have planted unfamiliar code seed in your site, but this is one of the simpler issues that your web developer could fix quickly.
  • You notice advertisements or pop-ups that shouldn’t be there. Especially if you don’t have any advertisements running on your page, this may be another reason to suspect a security breach. Bad actors could plant false “advertisements” or pop-ups in an attempt to redirect people to their malicious sites.

One of the first things you can do to safeguard your business website is to run a URL scan with your hosting provider or through a platform like VirusTotal. A URL scan will help determine whether there is malware on your site and how to address those concerns or issues.

“If you do the majority of your business through e-commerce or your website and you are hacked and you don’t do anything about it, you’re not going to have a business anymore,” Mike Ferris, Senior Analyst at WhiteHawk, affirms. “Your brand will be less reputable as well, especially if customer data is leaked. It’s really about protecting your business, so you need to take the right steps forward to do so.”

The digital world is at our fingertips, and as technology plays a central economic role in our lives, small and mid-sized businesses that have ignored putting in place cybersecurity basics, will only see the losses grow until they take foundational action.